Used Camping Trailer Buying Checklist

Hitching a camping trailer is one of the best ways to experience a vacation, especially when visiting remote locations. The ability to stop just about anywhere and make it feel like home is something no hotel room can compete with. 

Used trailers don’t always see a lot of use, making them a great deal for new enthusiasts. Here are a few things to look for when browsing used camping trailers. 

Exterior

The overall look of the trailer paints a picture of how it was used and maintained. Is it dirty? Are the tires worn or deflated? Does it look run down? First impressions are essential, and if the trailer doesn’t look good, it almost certainly isn’t a good deal. Even still, an appealing offer will require a more detailed inspection. 

Roof and Walls

Motorhomes are notorious for having problems with leaking, especially from the roof. Vents and covers should be clean. Unscrew what you can, or shine a flashlight to have a look inside. 

Walls need to be square to the chassis. Otherwise, the RV has structural damage, either from an accident or from poor maintenance. Open all of the storage compartments, see if the rubber seals are still usable and if the hatches close properly.

Blistering paint means that rust has formed from underneath. Some signs of corrosion are tolerable, but if the paint has become brittle and chips when touched, the RV will need to be worked on after the purchase. Dents or deep scrapes are difficult to repair, so keep that in mind when negotiating the final price.

Awning and Slides

Extend every awning to its full length to test out the mechanism and see if there are any rips or discoloration to the fabric. 

Slides of a motorhome can extend up, back, and to the sides, providing more living space on demand. As with the awnings, try out the extension mechanism and inspect the exterior condition of the walls. Slide seals should function both in the extended and retracted positions. 

Windows and Door

Most people naturally check how the door operates, but windows are often overlooked. They need to open and close properly to prevent water from coming inside. Latch the window locks and try out the key to the side door to ensure it can be properly secured.

Interior

The exterior condition matters from the standpoint of safety and usability. However, the living quarters should be reviewed with a dose of subjectivity. If the furniture layout, style, or comfort doesn’t feel right, then you shouldn’t buy that trailer no matter what. Otherwise, you might end up using the trailer less than you initially planned. 

Furniture

The quality of seats, beds, and chairs can be easily checked, but you also want to focus on the layout and practicality. Envision yourself spending a whole day in the trailer. Is there a comfortable place for you to sit? How cramped would it be with the entire family inside? Does the platform bed feel claustrophobic? The best practice is to prepare a list of requirements before setting out to inspect the trailer.

Kitchen

The kitchen appliances are located inside a tiny area inside the trailer or can be accessed from the outside on certain models. Typically, there are only a couple of gas-lit stoves, a microwave oven, a fridge, a small sink, and a few cupboards. Gas leaks are hazardous but are easy to repair. Problems with power supply are more serious, so check every outlet and electric appliance. 

Take into consideration the quality of cooking you can deliver in those conditions. A week or two of easy-to-cook meals is fine, but can you sustain a long-term healthy diet? The fridge needs to be clean and odor-free. Determine whether it is big enough for your needs or if it’s present enough to disrupt your sleep. 

Wash the Trailer

The exterior inspection is not always definitive, but power washing the trailer will settle any doubts about potential leaks. Spray every seal of the trailer while another person checks for leaks from the inside. Don’t forget to soak the roof, but be careful not to apply too much pressure on the vents. 

Power

A camping trailer gets its electricity from batteries and shore power, with some equipped with a power generator. Connect to an external power supply and check every outlet and appliance. Check the voltage of batteries and the purchase date. A warranty slip should be attached to the front of the battery. Run the generator and listen for rumbling or irregular noise.

Trailer

The issues with the trailer itself are inexpensive and easy to repair. However, always consider if the trailer is safe or legal to tow in its current condition. An on-site mechanic will cost you a lot more, so you can either ask the seller to address the problem or compensate for the cost of repairs.

Tires and Wheel 

Tires mounted on trailers can last longer than those fitted on cars, but they still need to have a significant groove depth. The production date is molded on the side, and tires younger than five to seven years are still fit for use. If the wheel makes noise as it moves, there is a problem with the ball bearings or joints.

Suspension and Brakes

Problems with suspension and brakes are difficult to diagnose. Get underneath the trailer and look for corrosion and greasy dirt. Inspect the whole underside to see if there are any structural issues. 

Hitch and Wiring

Thoroughly test the functionality of the hitch to be absolutely certain the trailer won’t detach on your way home. When connected, the electric adapter will use the power of the towing vehicle to operate the brakes and tail lights. For a safe and road-legal trailer, everything has to work flawlessly. A functional, fully intact hitch is essential for safe operation.